Friday, February 19, 2010

Johnny Neel and the Criminal Element

Here we go again. Playing 2 shows in 2 weeks after a 6 month break is a great way to get back in the swing of things. This time it was 12th and Porter playing host and the C.E. were the third of four bands, the fourth being Shauna P and the Earthfunk Tribe, the soul singer I missed last time.

The first band was The Ugli Stick, who appeared to be the same members of the Earthfunk Tribe doing their own thing without Shauna P. The second band was the Cooling System, who were a funky band with a great horn section. I missed both of these groups while running about before the Element but what I heard was cool.

The Criminal Element started their set off with what appears to be what you might call the "single" from the upcoming Volume 3 record, "Sum of it All". They also broke out another new one, a really cool reggae tune called "Closing In On You". This one was one of my favorites of the night with a super slick bass line and some tight vocal harmonies. About mid-way through the set Johnny announced that they were going to make up a song for Drummer Curt Redding who was celebrating his 31st birthday. If he hadn't announced this, you might have thought that this was another song they had been working on. They nailed it right off the cuff proving that some of their best work is made up right there and then. It had everything you would expect from the C.E. including a catchy riff and mumbled jibberish words from Johnny, both of which even their most well-known songs have. It was funny to hear guitarist Randy Boen say "that's gonna be on our next album", which is probably true. Later on they invited a whole gaggle of people up including some of the horns from the Cooling System and Shauna P for a song that I didn't recognize but Shauna seemed more comfortable with than last time. It went over well with some good singing and a nice sax solo from Adam Livingston (yes, from Boom Ticket). The rockin' "Damn Right" is always a great show closer and didn't disappoint this time. Good show from the Criminals. It looks like they're getting back into the groove.

I was exited to see what Shauna P and the Earthfunk Tribe could do after hearing everyone rave about them for the past two weeks. The first thing that stood out was her awesome bass player. Aside from rocking out, his technique was very unique. Imagine him holding the bass way up high, cradling it on the inside of his right elbow, pointing the head stock towards the floor, and playing with right hand coming up on the strings instead of from above. Something cool to see and like I said, he was thumping that thing like it owed him money. Moving on to Shauna P herself, she sure is quite the singer, although I couldn't help thinking on more than a few occasions that this was the lady funk equivalent to Bon Jovi. There's no denying that she is a great singer, but her stage moves, dramatic facial and body contortions, and her adult contemporary-themed songs pushed the cheese envelope just a little far for me. The robust Wednesday crowd was really into it, which is saying something for after midnight on a school night in this town. The band was great and again, she can sing real well but I probably wouldn't go see them again if they weren't opening for someone else.

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